First things first: it was exhilarating to see a new HALLOWEEN film….in the theater….during the month of October….produced with a skill and an affection for the spirit of the series. It’s been so long since there has been an iteration of this 40 year old franchise that made me feel that way. I was too young to see most of the early films in theaters – my first theatrical encounter with Michael Myers was at the age of 14 when I saw HALLOWEEN 6: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS. I’m happy to be alive and able to comprehend the newest form of evil in this latest installment.
I’ll just say this: the movie is good. It has a nice little slasher story, lots of brutality, only a few cheap jump scares, and a wonderfully creepy atmosphere. It bares the weight of the original on its back and it holds up well. It lacks the visual panache of a John Carpenter film, but this isn’t a John Carpenter film and that’s not a bad thing.
With all that being said, this movie and this review is not about all that. Read on.
*There are spoilers ahead. Ye hath been warned*
Partners in production, David Gordon Green (Director, co-writer) and Danny McBride (Producer, co-writer), have erased the previous tales of Michael Myers’ murderous rampages chasing long lost relatives around Haddonfield. The sequels are gone and, instead, they have focused intently on the aftermath of John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s original from 1978. The Michael-as-personification-of-evil angle has evolved and the idea of purpose and the ramifications of a traumatic event are given incredible depth.
Laurie Strode (the amazing Jamie Lee Curtis) lives on but the events of the original film have altered the trajectory of her life and the lives of her family, most notably those of her daughter and granddaughter. Laurie lives in a secluded home that doubles as a weapons training compound and is rigged as a kind of barricaded, booby-trapped safe-house. She has very little contact with her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), and her granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak) and her personal relationships have crumbled in light of the tragedy that befell her and her friends on the night of October 31st, 1978.
Real life events and the #MeToo movement were undoubtedly an ignition for the story of a damaged Laurie Strode trying to make sense of a life that was blasted off track by the impulses of a deranged man. Thankfully, the sister-brother angle explored in the sequels is contextually brushed aside as nonsense in one of the many meta moments that reference the sequels or the twisted nature of the franchise as it exists in our world.
Laurie needs no relation to the killer to make her a victim. Is it not more scary that she was merely a normal high-school girl who got sucked into the vortex of a murderer’s impulse and her life became inexplicably twisted around the bloody kitchen knife used to murder her friends? She has become a bad ass and a heroine who stands toe-to-toe with other heroines of the action genre. Most horror heroines barely outlast the killer and gather strength from the loss of their friends and family, but Laurie has emboldened herself by channeling her pain and trauma. She has spent years preparing for this fateful encounter and when the going gets tough, Laurie hops in her pick-up truck and goes hunting. She has strength as a result of her pain. If there ever was a discussion about who the best horror final girl is, HALLOWEEN closes the book and forever cements Laurie atop the mount. No longer is she the victim, she is empowerment personified.
Meanwhile, our main hero from the original, Dr. Sam Loomis, is no more and Michael is under the care of Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) at Smith’s Grove, where Michael has resided for the past 40 years. Utilizing one trope that stays true to the franchise, Michael and some other residents of the mental institution are being transported to a different facility and, not so surprisingly, everything goes wrong. The intentions of Dr. Sartain are uncertain and it becomes quite obvious that he harbors an obsession for the type of compulsion Michael feels. His intentions are so questionable that it is never quite explained how Michael manages to break free and overthrow the bus, but there appears to be a smoky overseer in the form of Dr. Sartain.
A decent part of the film explores the psychological effect these horrific events have had upon the lives of the people involved, and also upon those who came into contact with either the people or the events, themselves. The local policeman, Officer Hawkins (Will Patton), was a first responder back on Halloween in 1978. There are a pair of investigative reporters who are enraptured with understanding the outcome of such a horrifying tragedy so they can episodically report it on their podcast. And this is without mentioning the crumbled remains of the Strode family and the macabre infatuation of a doctor who becomes obsessed when he stands too close to evil.
There is a subplot within the narrative about Allyson trying to prove her boyfriend is a good guy by bringing him to dinner to meet her parents. Unbeknownst to the rest of the family, she also invited crazy old Grandma Laurie to dinner, who promptly has an emotional breakdown at the table. And Allyson’s mom, Laurie’s own daughter, tells her, “This is why I don’t invite her”. Because the affected are seen as the afflicted we’d rather not include at the dinner table.
Later on that night at the school Halloween party, Allyson catches her boyfriend kissing another girl and she bolts. This event is shortly followed by a guy pal of Allyson’s, perpetually in the friend-zone, walking her home to make sense of all the mess, only to wind up putting a move on her and forcing Allyson to defend herself. These events are common, not only in film, but in real life, and they are followed by the same excuses: “It wasn’t what you thought” “I was drunk” “I thought you wanted it, too” “Please don’t tell anyone”. I initially didn’t like this sub-plot as it seemed merely as a means of shoe-horning in a little teenage melodrama in the middle of the adult drama to appease the younger crowd, but it plays so well within the metaphor of the ever-morphing evil present in our lives each day.
The difference between Michael Myers and these other characters is just this: they have a face and can act like trustworthy friends and lovers. Michael represents the faceless menace stalking in the darkness, but he could just as easily be the person who professes their love to you, the person you confide in, the person you thought would protect you.
We live in a society where victims are treated like weirdos and we tell them “just let it go” because it’s easier to forget and look away and say “what’s wrong with you?” than it is to face the problem head on. HALLOWEEN gives us a story about facing the cause of your pain, using the strength you gain from surviving, and saying, “no longer am I your victim”.
Michael isn’t the boogeyman waiting for you in the dark, he’s the pain you can’t escape who comes back to finish the job. Only this time….he doesn’t stand a chance.